Interview: James Forbat
by Polly Hember
Soloist James Forbat has been dancing since the age of four. Training at The Royal Ballet School, he has stunned audiences as Albrecht in Mary Skeaping’s Gieselle and in Jiří Kylián’s Petite Mort. He is married to fellow company danger Francisco Bosch, and owns a French bulldog. Polly Hember catches up with him as he prepares for his lead role as Romeo in Rudolf Nureyev’s Romeo and Juliet for the English National Ballet. The ballet will come to Bristol’s Hippodrome 21 – 25 November 2017.
OtB: What has the training regime been like to get ready to play Romeo in the ENB’s Romeo and Juliet?
I have been rehearsing for about one month on and off to fit in with the other ballets we are rehearsing or performing. It has been a little different for me this time because my partner Begona Cao, who is a principal dancer with the company, has been returning after the birth of her second child. As there is lots of partnering (duet work) which requires strength and stamina, I have been working on my cardio fitness by doing interval training on either the bike or cross trainer in the gym.
OtB: Can you tell us a little bit about the production; how do you feel Rudolf Nureyev’s inventive choreography engages with Shakespeare’s classic tale of star-crossed lovers?
Nurevey’s choreography is classically based but brings in some interesting flavours of contemporary dance which he must have been inspired by at the time, and this makes it interesting for me to dance. There are a lot of steps, and this can make it a challenge to find the right artistic mood at some points in the ballet, but by act III Romeo is so physically and mentally exhausted that I find this gives a real depth of emotion to the last act. Nureyev’s choreography is certainly driven by the iconic Prokofiev score which in my view is the best ballet score in existence.
OtB: What is your favourite scene to perform as Romeo? From the fights, the balcony scene, to the tragic final embrace, is there a sequence that stands out for you?
The balcony scene is my favourite scene to dance. Acting out the point in the story at which Romeo and Juliet are most in love, feeling free and full of excitement, is such a wonderful feeling despite how tiring it is!
OtB: How have you prepared for the role? Has Shakespeare’s original play, Baz Luhrmann’s film Romeo + Juliet or any other influences (traditional or modern) shaped your interpretation?
I have tried to draw on my own life experiences of love and loss to shape my interpretation. I don’t think there is anything quite like delving into your own emotions to portray them on stage in a way that the audience can connect with.
OtB: Of all your roles in the ENB, which has been the most challenging?
I think Romeo is one of the two most challenging roles I have danced along with the principal in Etudes (a classical spectacular!). From both an artistic and technical standpoint, Romeo in Nureyev’s production is a huge challenge for even the most accomplished dancer, but I feel proud to have tackled it!
OtB: And the most enjoyable role?
Albrecht in Giselle.
OtB: What would be your dream role?
I would love to dance in a Lightfoot/Leon piece.
Full of action, humour and heartbreak, Nureyev’s award-winning production based on Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers will make a triumphant return for its 40th anniversary year. See Forbat as Romeo at the Hippdrome, book tickets here.
Image credit Jason Bell.
Art Direction and Design Charlotte Wilkinson Studio